The last time I was in Cusco, in 1997, restaurant options included pizza, burgers, guinea pig and not much else. This time the meals rivaled the best I’ve had in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Paris.
Peruvian cuisine has made huge leaps since 1997, winning awards around the world, and some of the best of it can be found in Cusco. I ate at three different restaurants the three nights I was there. Each meal was memorable, though I can’t remember what I ate and was too busy to take notes (you may have noted from earlier posts that this has happened before. What can I say? Sometimes food consumes me as I consume food).
The three restaurants were Chicha, Calle del Medio and Limo. All of my meals were well-prepared and original. I don’t remember ever seeing any of the dishes on the menu or on my plate in my many years of serious eating. If I was back in Cusco for only one night, I would probably pick Limo, as much for its extensive selection of pisco and pisco drinks as for its food.
I stayed at the Hotel Picoaga while I was in Cusco. Although it’s in a 17th Century colonial era mansion near the heart of the city, the rooms are spacious and modern. The Mountain Lodges of Peru also has a hotel in Cusco, the El Mercado Tunqui. It was still under construction when I was there, but I was given a tour of the site by the MLP staff. It looked like it was going to be a great hotel. Next time I’m in Cusco, that’s where I’ll stay.
I strongly recommend getting to Cusco a few days early, to acclimate to the altitude as well as for the attractions in and around the city. The standard stops on almost every tour of Cusco are well worth the extra days – the Plaza de Armas, La Catedral, Sacsayhuaman (an Inca site just outside of the city), the Sacred Valley, and Ollantaytambo, an impressive Incan site about 35 miles from Cusco.
If you have the time, I also recommend the Huchuyqosqo hike about a 45 minute ride outside the city. It’s pretty much an all day hike (some tour companies offer a longer version as a two day trek) at 11-12000 feet with significant elevation gain (about 1500 feet) and an even more significant downhill stretch, about 3500 feet, at the end. The scenery is beautiful, the trail is almost empty and its great preparation for the six day lodge-to-lodge trek. Mountain Lodges of Peru can arrange the drop off and pick up as well as the services of a guide.
(this post supplements the Huffington Post article, Trekking From Lodge to Lodge in the Mountains of Peru)